Invest In History
March 8th, 2017 | Julia de la Torre | Howel Magazine
On the morning of the Armory Show 2017 opening, Donald Christiansen, owner of the Chelsea Art Group, met Howl Magazine NY to give us a private tour of the exhibit and a glimpse into what he does as an art advisor. What is the Chelsea Art Group? Not a gallery, not an agency, but an Art Advisory Firm— aimed to guide you towards the process of purchasing art—from smart investments, to displaying it in your home.
Don, accompanied by Hendra Josiah, head of VIP relationships, walked me from booth to booth, telling me who’s who and what’s hot financially in the art world right now. Due to the nature of his work, Don admittedly doesn't focus on what emerging artists are doing, rather on what more seasoned artists in the business are up to; pieces that are booming, tripling in worth by the year.
As they were showing me around, one of Don's biggest clients came to Armory looking for new pieces for her private collection. "You can buy art you're passionate about," Don says as he greets gallerists here and there, "— Art that will have no financial returns for you in the future. OR..." he continues "You can invest in a $100,000 piece, that you can resell in three years for $300,000" he advises. "It might be a cold way to look at art, but it's my job to make sure you'll make a profit".
Don advises his client to purchase a Navarro. "Navarro is huge right now" he says as he points to one of Navarro's smaller pieces— a hollowed-out drum framing mirrors and neon light fixtures. "That's $45,000 right now, an absolute bargain. The price will double in no time"
The art world is a curious community indeed. Who's to say what is going to triple in worth, or what piece is going to be a "loss"? Well, instinct and careful study of the financial market, according to Donald Christiansen. "I get up early in the morning every day, and study the market for about two to three hours," Don tells us. When I expressed my intrigue as to what exactly makes pieces of art, despite how beautiful they might be, worth millions of dollars, Don hasn't much to say except "Yes, the art world is curious. Take Lucio Fontana's work, for example," he tells us, "he was the first artist to take the canvas into 3D form by cutting these slashes through it. Now Fontana's canvases are valued at about a million dollars per slash, and some enthusiasts are very passionate about dissecting how the slash is cut, what angle it's in— and that might increase or decrease the value." I stare at this canvas with a slash through it. Huh. "Green doesn't sell well, for example," Don offers randomly.
Curiouser and curiouser. (1)
Setting aside my bafflement at how random and subjective the art world is, and the question of who values what and WHY— spending time with Don and Hendra from the Chelsea Art Group made me realize that art is an incredibly smart investment. Especially with the help of an advisor, if you are not an expert yourself.
The Chelsea Art Group can even help you find the perfect spot in your home to display your piece, as they do with many of their biggest clients.
When I was younger and thought about the possibility of investing in something in the future, I thought real estate, I thought expensive wine, I thought to buy stocks in a company. But never really equated art = big returns. As an artist, I thought of art as something to buy and then keep forever. It's interesting to consider the transactional side of the art world.
When purchasing art, not only can you triple or quadruple your investment, but should you choose to never sell your pieces, buying art is acquiring a piece of history, a beautiful asset— something you can pass along for generations to your family, or one day open a gallery, even a museum of your own; much like Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who with her bountiful fortune acquired countless pieces of art back in the 1920's, wanting to inspire faith in the American artists and to encourage them— ending up with a collection so grand she opened the doors to The Whitney Museum in 1931. 2)
Granted, not all of us have access to the Vanderbilt fortune, but I realized you don't need to in order to start acquiring a little collection of your own. Purchasing art is no longer exclusive to the heirs of great fortunes or the "upper class"— if you want it to be, it can be a straight-up smart financial investment— you don't even need to be an art connoisseur.
Don didn't get into the art world until about twenty years ago, and before that, he was a big car salesman and expert. Now, he has more pieces than he knows what to do with. Not only is he investing smartly, but he's found a deep love for art; which would be incredibly hard not to if you're always exposing yourself to beautiful work.
I walked the halls of the Armory taking in the sights and sounds of art from all over the world. Being in the presence of such talent and creativity is incredibly uplifting and an experience that any and all should experience for themselves. However, walking along in the company of Don and learning more about the Chelsea Art Group I realized more fully than ever before that art is not only a creative outlet that makes our world a more beautiful and meaningful place, but can be a huge financial investment for those with the means, talent, and the passion to do so. For those of us who cannot afford a Fontana, investing in talented, emerging artists could prove to be a wise investment. Who needs a Mutual Fund?